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It is estimated more than 700 children who attend Springfield School District 186 schools are children living in transitional housing. They may live in shelters, at a relative’s home, motels, cars, tents or in abandoned homes. A gap in learning during the summer months prompted the Matthew Project to approach the YMCA in hopes of partnering in a summer camp program. In 2015 the YMCA served 8 Matthew kids. Last year, we served not only Matthew children, but have expanded our reach to include children of mothers who are affiliated with Wooden It Be Lovely, a ministry of Douglas Avenue United Methodist Church. They offer employment to women healing from lives of poverty, addiction, and abuse. This summer we served about 30 children from both Matthew Project and Wooden It Be Lovely.  Our program includes transportation to and from camp, breakfast, lunch, tutoring, swim lessons and all the fun activities of summer camp. The budget for this program is over $100,000 and is fully funded by the YMCA Strong Kids fund.

David Baseya, a 10-year-old who attends Ridgely Elementary, spent his summer at the YMCA camp in 2019. David, his two younger siblings, and mother moved to the United States in 2016 from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Becky Graves, Youth Development Associate Director, says, “From the moment we all met David he gifted us with his bright smile and infectious laugh. He quickly became a favorite amongst both the campers and counselors with his innate kindness and positivity. I can say with the utmost confidence that David has brought joy to many with his unknowing words of wisdom, his giant heart and loving soul. He is a cheerleader for his friends and sets a standard that all of us should strive to achieve.”

As kids grow up, they are influenced by relationships that provide safe, stable and nurturing environments.  These children are more likely to thrive physically and emotionally. Summer camp gives David a place where he is loved, encouraged and supported.  He has learned so much during his time at YMCA summer camp. In return, he has taught us a few things.  He is the perfect example of a child who has tackled emotional and intellectual hurdles with determination, courage and grace.